Reviewed by Nikyta
Title: Shelter Me
Author: Catherine Mann
Series: Second Chance Ranch #1
Hero/Heroine: Mike & Sierra
Genre: M/F Contemporary
Length: 336 pages
Release Date: August 5, 2014
Available at: Berkley, Amazon and Barnes & Noble
Add it to your shelf: Goodreads
Blurb: Nestled in the sunny fields of Tennessee lies the McDaniel family’s Second Chance Ranch Animal Rescue. Two new arrivals are on their way, but only one is the four-legged kind.
Staff Sergeant Mike Kowalski wants only one thing after he gets home from Iraq: to sleep in a king-sized bed with clean sheets. But first, he has to hand off his fallen commander’s dog, Trooper, to his family without handing off his heart to Sierra…
Sierra McDaniel needs a break. Her family life is crazy, and when she’s not mucking out kennels, she’s slogging through grad school. Sierra certainly doesn’t want another dog, especially one that reminds her of her father. And she definitely doesn’t want to see Mike with that charming smile of his…
But Trooper has a mission of his own. Before too long Mike is moving to the ranch to lend a hand—and hoping for his own second chance with Sierra.
Sierra McDaniel is barely holding it together since her dad died in the war four months ago. Helping her mom run her animal shelter, working towards her degree and holding an assistantship means her life is non-stop chaos. The last thing she wants to do is pick up a dog that’ll just remind her of her father. Staff Sergeant Mike Kowalski has one last thing to do before he can take advantage of his month long respite. All he has to do is give his fallen commander’s dog, Trooper, to his family and then he can take off. Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done when Trooper keeps escaping his new family to find Mike. Not to mention Mike and Sierra’s past relationship makes any interactions between them awkward and electrifying. Still, the McDaniel family is in need of help and Mike can’t just walk away from that even if it means losing his heart all over again to Sierra.
I must say, this was a very heart-warming story about how grief can slowly tear a family apart. It’s so sad the way that Sierra’s dad dying really impacted the family. Sierra wants to be independent but she can’t leave her mom, brother and grandpa on their own. Sierra’s mom, Lacey, is calm on the outside but a complete mess on the inside and, worst of all, Sierra’s brother, Nathan, is hurting more than anyone realizes. The family’s pain really got to me and made me fall in love with how much they needed help. Through it all, Sierra does her best to keep things going and keep the family together but that becomes harder everyday especially with a grandfather who has Alzheimer’s.
When Mike comes to the ranch to help with the shelter, he starts to make things easier even though things are getting worse. He helps Sierra cope with what’s going on even when there’s constant turmoil between what being together means. I loved that Sierra was such a strong character (even though she hated being strong) and I really liked the fact that Mike admired her and cherished her so much. The story has two romances (sort of) – one with Sierra and Mike, who are the main couple, and then a potential side romance with Sierra’s mom, Lacey, and the vet, Ray. Lacey is still grieving for her lost husband but the connection between Ray and Lacey both confuses and excites Lacey. At the same time, she’s not ready to move on and Ray’s not sure if his heart can take Lacey’s rejection. Still, a good part of the book is focused on that growing relationship.
While I loved the characters for the most part, my favorite part of the story is the sections that were from Trooper, the dog’s, POV. I ADORED him and his dog logic because while he had very ‘serious’ things to say about his family and what was going on, it was also very funny. The passages from him had me cracking up over the simplicity of what Trooper was thinking and saying, especially when he would call the United States the ‘United Steaks of America’. BUT he also made me tear up, especially towards the end.
I really, really loved the beginning of this book. The connection between Sierra and Mike and their attempts at avoiding the same mistake twice really captured my attention. However, I felt like after they finally got together, something was lost between them. I didn’t really like the fact that instead of talking they resorted to sex to avoid the future. A lot of conflict could have been avoided if they would have laid things out in the beginning and because they didn’t, the book became more and more repetitive as it progressed. Not to mention, I found it odd that it was mentioned several times that Nathan needed someone to talk to but no one ever made an attempt to talk to him until the end, when it was almost too late. I also felt disappointed in the side romance with Lacey and Ray. Probably about a third of the story is about at least the mom so the way their relationship was handled left me unsatisfied. However, I’m guessing this was just supposed to be the set up for the next book in the series. And let me tell you, if it’s not about Lacey and Ray I’ll be really mad! LOL. I was also a little disappointed in the way the resolution to the council meeting was handled. After how much conflict it caused I expected to at least witness it but instead it was completely skipped over. I was so looking forward to some heated arguments and a verbal beat down of the neighbor!
In the end, I loved the beginning, the middle dragged a bit but the ending was still good. I adored the characters and really liked that most of them were well developed. Trooper was so freaking adorable. I laughed AND cried during his POVs and I think that evened out the story’s more heavier parts so it made a good balance. This was my first Catherine Mann book but I doubt it will be my last, especially since I’m looking forward to the sequel! If you’re looking for a M/F contemporary with a good deal of angst, great characters and a sweet romance (between Sierra and Mike, at least) then definitely give this one a try.
Overall Impression: I liked it!
*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in return for a fair and honest review.*